What kind of vinegar should I use for cheese?

That would be the kind of thing I would google if I were making cheese acidified by vinegar and was not getting it to curd.

So, if you did google that and it brought you here…welcome. 

I used to think vinegar was vinegar was vinegar.  I’ve always taught that as long as it says 5% acidity, it will work consistently in your recipe.  It makes sense that it should…right?

Well, truth in advertising comes to light when you put the vinegar to the test in making simple, soft cheese.  Some call it paneer, soft goat cheese, queso fresco, queso blanco, farmer’s cheese, vinegar cheese…whatever you call it, it’s the kind where you heat up the milk, stir in vinegar, watch the cheese curds separate from the whey, strain through a cloth and voila!!!  Cheese!

I always use distilled white vinegar and buy it at Costco because it comes in the huge quantities that I go through quickly.  But, once I ran out and bought the Albertson’s brand of vinegar.  Another time, I ran out and bought the Kroger brand.

The one sold at Costco happens to be Heinz.  All three vinegars (Kroger, Albertson’s, Heinz) say 5% acidity and all are distilled white.

But, obviously all are not alike. 

The (at least 400) times I’ve added 1/4 cup Heinz vinegar to the 180 degree (previously raw) 1/2 gallon of goat’s milk and stirred it in, the milk has curded beautifully causing thick clumps of white curd and yellowish greenish clearish whey.  It drains in the flour sack cloth for 10 minutes, at the most, before it is a delicious, non-vinegary tasting, crumbly consistency.  It is spectacular.

BUT:  when I do the same process with the store brand vinegars, the milk barely curdles.  I slosh in more vinegar (now pushing 1/2 cup) and get some more curds, but they are small and the whey is still cloudy and only whitish yellowish.  When I hang it in the flour sack cloth, it drains out very slowly, and even after one hour, it is still the consistency of runny oatmeal.  And, it has a strong vinegar taste.  Not delicious.  Edible, yes, but not the cheese I am proud and fulfilled to eat (and serve).

So, as of now, I recommend that you use Heinz vinegar.  Pay a little more for the name brand.  It has better curd making power in it.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  I do not have any association with Heinz other than the company receives a fair chunk of my cheese making dollars.  I have no tie to Costco either.  Just for the record.


About The Goat Cheese Lady

I am Lindsey. At first I was a city girl. Then I was an urban farmgirl, attempting to balance city and farm life. Now, after moving to the country, I have embarked on life as a rural farmgirl, complete with my husband, the Animal Whisperer, man of exceptional knowledge and patience, two boys who are louder than my sister and I ever were, a herd of milking goats, and a flock of egg-laying chickens. Coyotes, mice, country dogs and prairie dogs are frequent visitors. Just 45 minutes north is Colorado Springs, the setting for our first six years in the goat world. Our family. Our city friends. Our introduction to cheesemaking. But we...and our growing farm and soon-to-be creamery...have set up shop down off of Highway 115 in Penrose, Colorado.
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9 Responses to What kind of vinegar should I use for cheese?

  1. Dan says:

    Dear Goat Cheese Lady – you are so right about the vinegar. I used Safeway brand and got very small curds (3 oz. per gal. – 1/3 cup). Then after reading what you said, the very next day I used Heinz brand vinegar (same 3 oz. amount) and the curds were at least 5 times bigger. Wow. I am going to try just 1/4 cup of Heinz vinegar next time. Thanks!

  2. Cindy says:

    The reason it is different is because Heinz vinegar is made from grain, and it will say that on the label. Those store brands… they are petroleum based! Ick!
    Here is a link with some good info that explains it so ya’ll know I’m not making this up.

    I use organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar when I make cheese, but am now glad to know that Heinz will work just as well 🙂

  3. laura h says:

    I guess one could use a pH test on the vinegar one has.

  4. My gut would be either of the following (or a combination of both).

    The fact that 5% (as with all labeling) is going to have some degree of +/-. Heinz on their own label probably aims high where home/generic brands probably aim low.

    The root ingredients (cider/wine/etc. Is obvious but the grains used for distilled (corn/2-row/6-row/etc.) can very so the chemical composition of the vinegar may also vary.

  5. laura h says:

    But why is it different?

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